Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: 294 pages
Publisher: Radar Avenue Press
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
After years of waging a secret war against the supernatural, Marley Jacobs put away her wooden stakes and silver bullets, then turned her back on violence. She declared Seattle, her city, a safe zone for everyone, living and undead. There would be no more preternatural murder under her watch.
But waging peace can make as many enemies as waging war, and when Marley’s nephew turns up dead in circumstances suspiciously like a vampire feeding, she must look into it. Is there a new arrival in town? Is someone trying to destroy her fragile truce? Or was her nephew murdered because he was, quite frankly, a complete tool?
As Marley investigates her nephew’s death, she discovers he had been secretly dabbling in the supernatural himself. What, exactly, had he been up to, and who had he been doing it with? More importantly, does it threaten the peace she has worked so hard to create? (Spoiler: yeah, it absolutely does.)
I bought this book because I read an article from the author on io9. It turned out that the io9 article was an extract from a more complete essay published at Black Gate. It’s here, go read it. I’ll wait.
For those who didn’t go to the full article, it’s the author talking about the writing of this book – specifically that there are no female protagonists in urban fantasy of a certain age. Or any age over 35. He had me hooked at that point, because yes, I’m over 35. You may not be yet, but we all get there at some point, unless we don’t survive.
There are female wisdom figures in urban fantasy over that age. There are also plenty of cosy mysteries where the sleuth, amateur or professional, is of retirement age – remember Miss Marple?
But in urban fantasy every heroine (and pretty much every hero), kicks butt, takes names and sets things on fire, not necessarily in that order. What if your heroine is past the chasing suspects at top speed stage but can still bring the baddies in with a lot of brain and heart. Especially a lot of brain.
We may not be as fast at 60+ as we are at 30+, but we (hopefully) know more stuff. And magic, in particular, is a field where knowing more stuff can definitely win the day.
Marley Jacob is 62, and she has been keeping Seattle safe from the supernatural, and the supernatural safe in the city, for a long time. She’s a good witch, but there are definitely circumstances where she is a good witch in the same way that Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld is a good witch – because her goodness is so sharp that it cuts things – including, occasionally, herself.
Marley is certainly a chaos magnet of the highest order. A lot of things go wrong in her orbit, sometimes because of something she did, and often because of something someone wants to do to her – with extreme malice.
Although its not ever explained, I’m pretty sure based on context in the story that Marley Jacob’s name is no accident. If it rings a bell that you can’t quite close in on, reverse the order. Jacob Marley was Ebenezer Scrooge’s ghostly partner in A Christmas Carol. (I hope that in some later book we get more info, so I can find out if my guesses are anywhere near the mark.)
The title of the book, as long as it is, is also a description of the key elements of the story. All those things are involved, but it’s the last, that unfortunate remark, that sends everything careening on its way. Or at least that brings some of what is skulking in the dark out into the light.
It’s up to Marley, and her nephew and new right hand man Albert, to figure out how one unfortunate remark to her other nephew, the late and not in the least lamented Aloysius, could have kicked off so much chaos and mayhem in her city. Before it kills them all.
Escape Rating A+: For me, this book was absolutely un-putdown-able. (That needs to be a word)
Whatever the stereotype of older women may be in your head, Marley is guaranteed not to fit into it – and that’s a terrific thing. She’s very clear that once upon a time, she waged war. She used to be that kick ass magical gunslinger, and she has REGRETS. Waging peace in her one small corner of the world is just as hard, but she believes it is better in the long run for everyone – and backs up that belief with a lot of wisdom as well as the occasional spell.
But she doesn’t do violence. Her new assistant Albert was a soldier in Afghanistan, and one of their constant struggles is his desire to protect and defend Marley, with weaponry if necessary, only to discover that she has already figured a way out and that his attempts to grab a gun have only gotten in her way and made things worse.
At the same time, Marley is giving Albert a lesson about magic and its uses in the world, as well as an introduction to everything in Seattle that goes bump in the night. Albert also gets a surprising lesson into the old saying that goes, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.” Albert wants to meet a werewolf.
Marley’s version of waging peace involves keeping her city safe. At the very beginning of the story, she makes it clear to the late Aloysius that part of what she’s keeping the city (or at least its female population) safe from is him. When he asks her for a love potion, and she explains to him very carefully that what he is asking for is really a rape potion, I wanted to stand up and cheer.
She also makes Aloysius finally see himself as others see him – a smarmy and self-absorbed user. Also a complete slacker and bully who is disliked if not hated by everyone he puts the touch on. Seeing the light gets Aloysius’ lights turned off permanently. But even though he was an arsehole, he was still family. Marley moves heaven and earth (sometimes close to literally) to find out what the jerk was involved in that got him killed.
Finding out that there’s a dragon at the bottom of it all is a fantastic surprise.
If you love urban fantasy, or even like it, this is an awesome book. Please read it so we get more.
Reviewer’s note: I lived in Seattle until very recently, so a lot of the places in this book are VERY familiar. It’s not just that I’ve been stuck waiting for the Ballard Bridge more than a few times. There’s a scene where Marley and Albert go to the grocery store on W. Dravus in Magnolia, and walk towards Magnolia Hill over the railroad tracks. The store is a QFC, and I’ve been there and walked that same stretch. I still miss the Red Mill Burgers across the street. Very deja vu.